Orthodontists in demand

BY JUSTIN LATIF
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2009

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Fixing a child’s crooked smile isn’t easy if you live in west Auckland.

The region is desperately short of orthodontists with only two in Waitakere city.

Fiona Turner is based in New Lynn and is already booked a whole year ahead.

She often works through her lunch break just to get through a daily load of clients.

Similar services are offered in suburbs like Remuera where there are seven practices.

But parents often find the distance offputting if they need regular treatment.

Children needing their teeth straightened usually require six-weekly visits for two years.

Ms Turner says that sort of commitment makes it even more essential for practices located a bit closer to home.

She says most new orthodontists leave university with big loans and little money to set up their own clinics.

"Traditionally they have centred around Remuera but as the population has grown elsewhere practices haven’t spread into wider Auckland," she says.

"Most orthodontists have a sizeable student loan and they also want to get some experience overseas."

A student requires five years at the dental school in Dunedin plus a three-year doctorate to become an orthodontist.

Orthodontic services are not available through the public health system.

Ms Turner warns people not to take rash action.

"Dentists who do a little orthodontist work but aren’t specialists can be a risky option," she says.

"It’s important you get the right person and do it once and do it right.

"Teeth can be moved at any age so it can be better to wait."

New Zealand Association of Orthodontists president Peter Fowler says the most recent graduates have based themselves on the North Shore.

He says there is no quick fix to the situation.

"The shortage of orthodontists is not limited to just west Auckland," he says.

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